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Do Chelsea Miss Backroom Staff More Than Mourinho?

Remember Jose’s dossier’s? No, not the one’s concerned with Wenger’s voyeurism, but the one’s compiled on opponents. The groundwork that went into each and every game when TSO was around was legendary. But, with Mourinho’s departure seven months ago, so we saw the departure of his backroom staff: Baltemar Brito, one of his assistant managers; Rui Faria, his conditioning coach; Silvinho Louro, his goalkeeping coach; and Andre Villas Boas, his chief scout. Steve Clarke (until the summer at least) has remained behind, mainly to stop the natives getting too restless as far as I’ve been able to tell because his role is nowhere near as clear under the new regime – a regime which clearly hasn’t adopted the same detailed attention to match preparation.

Just as the arrival of Grant upset the focus Mourinho had so finely tuned, so the replacement of the tried and trusted coaching team with an old mate from Maccabi Tel Aviv (Michael Emenalo) and Rijkaard’s ex-assistant turned amateur boxer, Ten Cate, seems to have had an adverse effect on the players. While in Ranieri’s day, team discussions consisted of watching videos of set-pieces and team selection announced via the notice board hours before a game, the tactical work undertaken before a game under Mourinho followed this up by setting a precedent that clearly hasn’t been observed since. Where players had got used not only to knowing a day or more in advance that they were actually playing but also being presented with individual DVD’s of opponents to see what they were up against, these days it’s alleged the manager doesn’t even tell players he’s dropping them. Steve Clarke, for example, is reported to have been asked to break the news to Ben Haim with Grant citing their shared nationality as a good enough reason not to do the deed himself.

Judging by some of our performances this season, you’d have to suggest that where Jose had the meticulous Andreas Villas scrutinising opponents, discussing them at length and then equipping players with detailed audiovisual tools, Grant must have a six-year old doing his homework for him, handing in badly crayoned stick men on screwed up paper. Baltemar Brito, also responsible for key audiovisual work in preparation for games clearly wouldn’t have approved of Grant’s not so much poor attention as total ignorance to detail either. Thought to be responsible for Chelsea’s cutting edge, Jose’s number 2 was nicknamed “the policeman” because of his strict discipline – something severely lacking around Stamford Bridge these days.

And, what about the actual training itself? With one laboured performance after another lately, perhaps fitness is an issue? Well, Mourinho and Rui Faria had a rigorously structured approach, with training sessions said to be conducted with the precision of a sergeant major. Faria would review personal training plans daily, drawing up rolling schedules to look at length of playing time and required rest for each player. Grant, in contrast, is said to leave training sessions to Ten Cate and Clarke. There’s no pattern to who he plays when and his motto seems to be “if everyone plays, then everyone’s happy” – and if they’re not then Ten Cate’ll rough them up a bit – apparently. Cech didn’t keep his headgear for no reason, right? And speaking of our accident prone keeper, he’s surely missed the services of Silvinho Lauro this season if the less than consistent performances are anything to go by? Of course, injuries have a lot to answer for but so too must losing the specialised input from a great goalkeeping coach.

And so, we come to Steve Clarke, the sole survivor of Mourinho’s band of merry men, although not for much longer if recent rumours are to be believed. A Chelsea man since 1987 who’s seen the odd manager come and go, however, never has he looked as dejected as he has this season. While clearly full of admiration for the manager he appeared to have built up a friendship as well as a successful working relationship with, he enthused “there’s so many different factors, so many combinations of little things that all come together to make the package successful”, the most he’s said of note this season would seem to be that he’s ready for the off. Clarke has also said in the past that these players know how to prepare for a game and that’s just as well, considering the poorer standard of coaching they appear to have had this season. However, the longer the season’s gone on, the more apparent it’s become just how vital the backroom staff are, but is that irrespective of the manager?



Blue is the colour is an honest insight to the World of Chelsea FC. Not always pretty, sometimes rather cynical, but always realistic.


April 2008
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